July 23, 2012
The Penn State Penalty
Posted by Gordon Smith

When news of the NCAA sanctions against Penn State was leaking last night, commentators largely split into two camps: those who believed that penalties were justified, but were worried that the speculated penalties were not harsh enough, and those who believed that the NCAA had no business penalizing Penn State.

The actual penalties announced today were even more dramatic than most people anticipated: Penn State was fined $60 million, stripped of 10 scholarships per year for the next four years, banned from bowl games for four years, and had all of the football program's wins from 1998 to 2011 vacated. In addition, all current and incoming players are allowed to transfer immediately. Wow!

The Big Ten Conference decided to pile on, banning Penn State from any conference championship and adding an additional $13 million in fines.

The money is not the big story here. (According to the NCAA, $60 million is about the average annual revenue of the football program.) The future of Penn State's football program is not the big story. (This worse than the death penalty, but outside of State College, who cares about the future of Penn State football?) The big story is the NCAA's effort to work a cultural change, not only at Penn State, but throughout college athletics: "These events should serve as a call to every single school and athletics department to take an honest look at its campus environment and eradicate the 'sports are king' mindset that can so dramatically cloud the judgment of educators."

The NCAA seems a bit late to the culture party, and I suspect that it will be rightly accused of hypocrisy on this one (has anyone written that column, yet?), but I like the move today. Will the events at Penn State have an effect on university administrators and athletics departments? Maybe. Will it have an effect on the NCAA? No doubt. I am curious to see where this leads.

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